Around 700km west of Belém – but closer to 800 as the river flows – SANTARÉM is the first significant stop on the journey up the Amazon, a small city of around 130,000 people, which still makes it the fourth largest in the Brazilian Amazon. Agreeable and rather laid-back, it feels more like a large town than a city – a world away from the bustle of Belém and Manaus. Even though the area around it has lately been transformed by a soy-growing boom, and the docks are now dominated by a Cargill grain terminal, this hasn’t had much impact on the town’s languid feel. But don’t be deceived: there are plenty of things to do here, and Santarém, positioned right in the centre of a region still largely (and inexplicably) unvisited by tourists, is the perfect base for exploring some of the most beautiful river scenery the Amazon basin has to offer.

Santarém is located at the junction of the Tapajós river and the Amazon; the waters mix in front of the city and the contrast between the muddy waters of the Amazon and the deep blue and turquoise of the Tapajós is as spectacular as the much better known merging of the Rio Negro and the Amazon in front of Manaus. During the dry season (June–Nov) the Tapajós drops several metres, fringing the entire river system with stunning white-sand beaches. This is the time to visit Alter do Chão, Santarém’s beach resort and certainly the most beautiful the Amazon has to offer.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Brazil features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Amazing new aerial images show uncontacted tribe in Brazil

Amazing new aerial images show uncontacted tribe in Brazil

Incredible aerial images of one of the Amazon rainforest's uncontacted tribes have been released by Survival International. The pictures, taken by photographer …

18 Nov 2016 • Lottie Gross insert_drive_file Article
A sex-themed amusement park is set to open in Brazil

A sex-themed amusement park is set to open in Brazil

Forget about virtual-reality roller coasters, the future of theme parks just got a whole lot raunchier. Developers in Brazil are planning to build an adults…

13 May 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
23 brilliant pictures of Brazil

23 brilliant pictures of Brazil

This year sees the Olympics and Paralympics take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. If you're heading to Brazil to catch any of the sporting action, here are a fe…

04 Mar 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month